Blue Gum Community School is a small community school offering education programs for 0–16 year-olds. Open since 1998 and located in Canberra, Blue Gum is ‘Australian-made’ and named after a robust Australian native eucalypt tree. Our school values, our Australian context, environment and inheritance, connects globally — sharing with, and learning from, educators in other cultures. Blue Gum adopts a personalised, strengths-based approach to education where every student can be successful. Our smallness is our strength — students’ individual interests and passions contribute to their learning community’s exploration of unlimited research possibilities.
We offer a ‘real world’ learning environment, designed to be a microcosm of and an access point to the broader community. Students of all ages are active participants in, and citizens of, the real world; they are instinctive researchers of the world around them, seeking knowledge and skills. Students and educators work together as co-researchers investigating, exploring, theorising, in the process of making meaning. New forms of expression are often needed, so the arts offer a rich source of creative ‘tools’ and different ‘languages’ through which to think ‘outside the box’, explore ideas, and then to communicate their findings and responses to others.
Blue Gum is a secular school, where individual families’ beliefs and values are supported, if possible and consistent with the school’s philosophy. However, one set of religious/spiritual beliefs is not valued more highly than another. The school has a passionate commitment to social justice; for example, in relation to issues around the four fundamental principles of equity, access, equality and participation.
Our classrooms are a hive of activity, as students work through a variety of learning possibilities. They have a strong sense of ownership over their learning, and can negotiate the direction it takes, frequently taking the initiative in seeking resources, discussing theories, collaborating with peers and investigating real-life issues. A balance is always maintained between student initiatives and teacher-instigated explorations, research and workshops (e.g., targeting core skills).
Outdoor education is an important part of the core learning and compulsory for every student, not simply an ‘elective’. Blue Gum students spend large chunks of time outdoors, exploring and engaging in the natural world around them. This may mean climbing boulders and trees, sliding down dirt hills, experimenting with and in water, using sticks as tools — extracting maximum learning from ‘hands-on’ investigations.